Defence And Freedom
I will try to build my very own vehicle strategy here. It’s meant as a baseline for comparison with actual vehicle inventories. I’m fully aware that developing an actual vehicle inventory is messy, incremental, and done by successive leaderships.
The comparison is thus not necessarily a critique, but rather an try to make the difference between actual and optimal (or what I think would be optimal) visible.
(5) Climate control
German military vehicles need only the fundamental heater and no cooling climate control. Neither Germany nor NATO or EU may be defended in an African desert, period.
Cabins filled with electronics are an obvious exception, in fact. There should nevertheless be provisions for an upgrade with a standardised climate control kit (for export, if nothing else).
(6) Fuel tanks, road range
Wheeled vehicles can quite easily reach great on-road ranges. 1,000 km is well possible, and 1,500 km is possible as well. It has been documented that even in heavy formations the trucks are the main fuel guzzlers, not the tanks. Even the notorious thirst of the Abrams tank prior to introduction of its auxiliary power unit didn’t change this. Logistical trucks drive more and are so numerous that their combined movement of weight is way greater than the combined movement of armoured vehicle weight even of a mechanised brigade.
Now let’s take into consideration that manoeuvre forces (equivalent to a mechanised brigade) are very difficult to resupply during mobile warfare. Often times they receive supplies only every second day, even if daily resupply was intended. The longer they can make do without resupply, the less trouble for the leadership. The extra fuel thirst from carrying the additional weight of extra fuel and fuel capacity doesn’t come near compensate for this.
I might thus set a minimum road range of 500 km (apart from motorcycles) under realistic conditions including whatever electrical power has to be supplied for the payload. The vehicle fleet as a complete should have about 1,000 km road range. The transfer of fuel from longer-endurance vehicles to shorter-endurance ones must be possible, quick and easy with on-board equipment. This way the upper fuel capacity vehicles (heavy trucks) would probably be the one ones being refuelled by fuel resupply after which much of this fuel might be further distributed over time to lower endurance vehicles. The filling of fuel tanks should be visible outside, so no driver could refuse to hand out fuel as long as his truck’s fuel supply is above a marked level (akin to equivalent to 500 km road range), by claiming that he is short on fuel.
Armour protection for trucks is terribly in fashion nowadays. Even RPG-proofing with the aesthetic armageddon of cages is widespread. Protection against mines is focused on the command-detonated types, both below the hull (V-shaped belly, shock absorbing structure, roof-mounted seats) and roadside.
The classic pressure-fused mine threat is being neglected by comparison (otherwise we would like to have the front axle well ahead of the cabin, so the cabin isn’t directly above the explosion of a pressure-fused mine). We also don’t care much nowadays about scatterable mines either. Anti-vehicle (anti-tank) mines can be scattered by multiple rocket launchers, combat aircraft, dispensers underslung a helicopter et cetera. I suppose this threat is something to think about for vehicles in a manoeuvre formation.
Does up-armoring make sense It depends. One thing is certain, though; it does again favour the higher capacity vehicles. The armour protection for a truck cabin weighs in at about a ton, so two-ton trucks cannot reasonably be up-armoured and still be employed in a two-ton truck role. The drivers of 15-ton trucks barely notice a difference.
It makes sense to maintain the overall standard truck design compatible with up-armouring and lightly armoured versions, but I doubt that today’s fashion of very much protected cabins and trucks will last for long.
We’ll probably go back to mere bullet-proofing and add a discount of secondary effects (reduced fire hazard, spall liners to limit the effect of penetrations, protection against common mines) to it. Even this type of protection may be limited to those units most exposed to wartime hazards.
(8) Fuel consumption
Very high pressure tires, much electronics, no armour weight and very aerodynamic, curved shapes could be ideal for fuel efficiency. Instead, many military vehicles are rather technically primitive, boxy vehicles. Modern civilian trucks are in between.
I suppose there’s a golden middle. We can have the electronics, however the vehicles should keep going in a back-up mode in the event that they fail. We can have the boxy cabin structures that allow easy addition of armoured panels, but we can have aerodynamic, curved skins on them. The 1950’s era innovation of central tire inflation systems is widespread anyway and allows for top air pressure tires during road marches and soft, wide tires on soft soil. Alternatively we could use airless tires.
(9) Off-road requirements
Most vehicles do not need greater agility or off-road ability than the trucks used within the forestry industry. The ones which need better off-road ability might be divided into groups. The best off-road aspirations would have the scouting vehicles and combat engineer vehicles (a few of which could even be reasonably equipped for amphibious movement) followed by combat vehicles. Most other vehicles even in manoeuvre formations would not drive in difficult terrain often. Most importantly, they are unlikely to cross drainage ditches, fences or walls often. Driver training is a greater determinant of off-road capability in such trucks than the gearbox or axles. There’s little to be gained by noticeable variations within the off-road capability of such vehicles. An offroad-wonder equivalent to a Unimog in the identical unit as a barely modified 7-ton road truck would allow the convoy effect to kick in: The leader would need to limit his routes and speed in response to the bounds of the poorest vehicles and drivers.
(10) On-board spare parts
I’ve long-lost the source, but I remember an anecdote about a convoy in Bosnia through the 90’s which got harassed by snipers so badly that hundreds of tires were ruined during a day’s trip. Sure, we’ve run-flat tires nowadays, but once pierced these still require replacement and not less than some serious repair. The very small quantity of spare tires has always irritated me. I suppose we need many more, and vehicles needs to be prepared to carry many more full quality spare tires, ready for a quick change. Two full quality and inflated spare tires on or in a four-wheel vehicle ought to be normal, not noteworthy. Again, airless tires could also be an inexpensive alternative.
All trucks should have the rather large radio antennas (to keep observers from identifying leadership vehicles) and all needs to be (are) prepared to simply accept a quick upgrade with a military radio set.
Short-range (hundreds of metres, with automatic relay function) radios ought to be in all vehicles. Their use shouldn’t be more distracting than unavoidable. The prices of this sort of technology have dropped a lot that there is basically no excuse for not having short-range radios in all trucks. No troops ought to be forced to resort to improvisations with civilian cellphones.
(12) Camouflage and deception
Certain paints can reduce infrared contrast, certain netting can reduce both radar and infrared signatures. Exhausts and coolers may be placed and designed to leave less of a signature.
All these signature reduction measures should be considered with the potential of blending with civilian-type vehicle traffic in mind. I am not likely thinking of mixing with civilian traffic, but many civilian trucks with quick military paintjobs can be utilized in a serious conflict. They can be driven either by contractors or by soldiers.
Either way, they could be lower priority targets than the dedicated military trucks. The latter possess more capabilities, usually tend to be part of manoeuvre forces, and are more likely carrying valuable equipment.
The heavy army trucks should thus be able to switch between an almost civilian appearance and trying to hide entirely (not on the move, after all). Special versions akin to trucks with multiple rocket launchers or expensive air defence or electronic warfare equipment should be capable of look identical to their less important military truck cousins of the identical basic vehicle type.
(13) Crew comfort other than temperature control
Many heavy civilian trucks possess a module on top of the cabin (or in its rear) with a bunk for sleeping. Military trucks don’t, for somehow we still pretend that a weapon on most if not all trucks is a good idea.
We should always nevertheless provide some more comfort for these troops. Sleep deprivation is a big problem during military campaigns, and it’s well-known that tired drivers cause many accidents. These accidents are ‘friction’ which sabotages the execution of the commander’s intent. A discount of this friction requires enough sleep for drivers. Yes, this ought to be a truck design issue, too. The truck’s side could have a quick folding tent roof and a fast-folding camp bed with enough insulation for a European spring or autumn night. Maybe there is definitely enough personnel for two men per cabin; the second needs to be easily able to adjust his seat, get a pillow and sleep during a road march. Many cabins weren’t designed with this in mind.
(14) Navy and air force have little need for standardisation or off-road capabilities
Dump all vehicles which were found deficient in practice there.
It must be possible to satisfy the need for trucks during an emergency doubling of the army within six months. The production of enough trucks should be possible on short notice and civilian commandeered trucks must be adapted in time.
(16) Temperature range
Useful right down to about -40°C, without excessive breakages. This includes suitable coolants, rubbers and lubricants.
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